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Europe Pans Bush

A majority of Europeans don't approve of President Bush's handling of foreign affairs, think he makes decisions based entirely on U.S. interests and feel he knows less about Europe than his predecessors, according to a new poll.

When it comes to domestic politics, the disapproval of Europeans may not be such a bad thing, said one conservative analyst.

"In the long run, it's an asset domestically because it shows the president is willing to stand up for American interests," said Marshall Wittman of the Hudson Institute. "It probably shows that Europeans suffer from Texaphobia."

Europeans may assume a leader from Texas is not sophisticated in international matters, he said.

In a June poll conducted by CBS News and the New York Times, the president had an approval rating of 53 percent among 1,050 adults, with a margin of error of three points.

European approval of Mr. Bush's foreign affairs efforts runs anywhere from 40 to 60 percentage points below their assessment of the job done by former President Clinton.

The people who said they didn't yet know how they felt about Mr. Bush's policies ranged from a fourth to a third in the four countries in the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

"I don't think it's an irreversible situation," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, noting the high number of Europeans who haven't yet made up their minds. "Most of the people in these countries don't see a broader rift developing between the United States and Europe."

The survey was done in partnership with the International Herald Tribune and in association with the Council on Foreign Relations.

White House spokesman Sean McCormack took exception with the sentiment reflected in the survey results, saying Mr. Bush has reached out to redefine the post-Cold War relationship with Russia and is committed to cooperation with U.S. allies on global warming — just not within the framework of the Kyoto treaty, which Mr. Bush rejects.

"Certainly there are many more things that unite the United States and Europe than divide us," McCormack said. As for the divisions, "these are things we're talking about and we're consulting actively about."

The Bush Presidency: Learn more.

More than four in five disapproved of Mr. Bush's positions on the Kyoto treaty; two-thirds or more disapproved of his stand on missile defense. A majority approved of his support of free trade and his decision to keep U.S. troops in Kosovo and Bosnia.

More than seven in 10 in Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy said the president's international policy decisions are based on U.S interests, the poll indicated. Almost three-fourths of the Europeans polled felt that Mr. Bush understands Europe less than other presidents.

Approval of Mr. Bush's international policies ranged froone in six in France to three in 10 in Italy. Approval of Mr. Clinton's handling of international issues ranged from two-thirds in France and Great Britain to almost nine in 10 in Germany.

"I found it surprising — the extent of public opposition to some of the main Bush administration foreign policy initiatives," said Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The poll's finding that two-thirds or more of Europeans disapprove of deployment of a new missile defense system that requires withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty could be the thorniest issue for Mr. Bush, said Morton Halperin, a senior fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations.

The opposition could make it tougher for European governments to yield to administration pressure to go along with the missile defense system if it involves terminating the ABM treaty, Halperin wrote in an analysis of the survey.

The report was based on roughly 1,000 telephone interviews apiece in Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany as well as a separate poll of 1,227 people in the United States. The poll, taken in early August, has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The European reservations about Mr. Bush probably "reinforce the liberal opposition to Bush in this country," said Wittman.

"But unless there is a threat to peace internationally," Wittman said, the European reservations about Mr. Bush "probably make no difference."

©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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